Usermaatre Setepenamun Osorkon III Si-Ese was the famous Crown Prince and High Priest of Amun Osorkon B, son of Takelot II by his Great Royal Wife Kamama-Merytmut II. Prince Osorkon B is best attested by his Chronicle—which consists of a series of texts documenting his activities at Thebes—on the Bubastite Portal at Karnak. He later reigned as king Osorkon III in Upper Egypt for twenty-eight years after defeating the rival forces of Pedubast I/Shoshenq VI who had apparently resisted the authority of his father here. Osorkon ruled the last five years of his reign in coregency with his son, Takelot III, according to Karnak Nile Level Text No. 13. Osorkon III's formal titulary was long and elaborate: Usermaatre Setepenamun, Osorkon Si-Ese Meryamun, Netjer-Heqa-waset.
Osorkon III's precise accession date is unknown. Various Egyptologists have suggested it may have been from around the mid-790s BC to as late as 787 BC. The issue is complicated by the fact that Prince Osorkon B did not immediately declare himself king after his successful conquest of Thebes
. This is evidenced by the fact that he dated this seminal event to Year 39 of Shoshenq III
rather than Year 1 of his reign. Osorkon III may therefore have waited for a minimum of one or two years before proclaiming himself as a Pharaoh of the Theban-based 23rd Dynasty
. Osorkon may have felt compelled to defeat or pacify any remaining supporters of the Pedubast I/Shoshenq VI rival faction in other regions of Upper Egypt whether they were in Elephantine
, the Western Desert Oasis region—where Pedubast I is monumentally attested—or elsewhere in order to consolidate his position. Hence, Year 1 of Osorkon III is likely equivalent to Year 1 or Year 2 of Shoshenq IV
instead, rather than Year 39 of Shoshenq III.
Osorkon III is attested by numerous impressive donation stelae
and stone blocks from Herakleopolis Magna
through to Thebes. He is generally thought to have been a contemporary of the Lower Egyptian 22nd Dynasty
kings, Shoshenq IV
, and the first decade of Shoshenq V's reign. Osorkon III's chief wife was Queen Karoadjet but his second wife was named Tentsai. A stela of Prince Osorkon B calls his spouse Tent[...] with part of the name being lost. The latter name can be rendered as either Tentsai or Tentamun. Significantly, however, both men have a daughter called Shepenupet.
Secondly, according to Ōhshiro Michinori, Anthony Leahy, and Karl Jansen-Winkeln, an important donation stela discovered in 1982 at (ancient Akoris) reveals that Osorkon III was once a High Priest of Amun in his own right. The document explicitly calls Osorkon III, the High Priest of Amun. Osorkon III, thus, was almost certainly the High Priest Osorkon B, who defeated his father's opponents at Thebes in Year 39 of Shoshenq III, as Leahy notes. This theory has been accepted by many Egyptologists today, including Jürgen von Beckerath, Karl Jansen-Winkeln, Gerard Broekman, and Aidan Dodson, among others, with the notable exception of Kenneth Kitchen. Dodson and Hilton sum up the evidence by noting:
That Osorkon B is the same person as King Osorkon III is indicated by the fact that the former's last appearance as High Priest of Amun seems to directly precede Osorkon III's assumption of the throne, reinforcing a stela from Tehna which mentions the latter with the additional title of High Priest—an unusual occurrence.
Osorkon probably lived into his eighties, which explains why he appointed his son Takelot as the junior coregent to the throne in his final years. He would have been in failing health by this time. Osorkon III's coregency with Takelot III is the last attested royal coregency in ancient Egyptian history. Later dynasties from Nubia, Sais, and Persia all ruled Egypt with a single king on the throne.
Karnak Nile Level Texts No. 6 and 7, dated to Year 5 and 6 of Osorkon III, calls his mother the "Chief Queen Kamama Merymut. Similarly, Prince Osorkon B's mother was identified as Queen Kamama Merymut II, wife of Takelot II. The slightly different renderings of this Queen's name almost certainly refers to the same person here: Osorkon B/III.
According to Kenneth Kitchen, Osorkon III's chief consort, Queen Karoadjet, was the mother of Shepenupet I, the God's Wife and Divine Adoratrice of Amun, while his lesser wife Tentsai was the mother of Osorkon III's two sons: Takelot III and Rudamun. Shepenupet I would outlive both her half-brothers as the serving God's Wife of Amun at Thebes and survive into the reign of the Nubian ruler, Shebitku, where she is depicted on the small temple Osiris-Heqa-djet in the Amun precinct of Karnak, which was partially decorated by this king.
- Broekman, Gerardus P. F. (2002). "The Nile Level Records of the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Dynasties in Karnak: A Reconsideration of Their Chronological Order". Journal of Egyptian Archæology 88 163–178.
- Caminos, Ricardo Augusto (1958). The Chronicle of Prince Osorkon. Roma: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum.
- Dodson, Aidan M.; Dyan Hilton (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Cairo, London, and New York: The American University in Cairo Press and Thames and Hudson. ISBN 977-424-878-3.
- Jansen-Winkeln, Karl (1995). "Historische Probleme der 3. Zwischenzeit". Journal of Egyptian Archæology 81 129–149.
- Kitchen, Kenneth A. (). The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC). 3rd edition, Warminster: Aris & Phillips Limited.
- Leahy, M. Anthony (1990). Libya and Egypt c1300–750 BC. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, and The Society for Libyan Studies.
- 大城 道則 [Ōhshiro Michinori] (1999). "The Identity of Osorkon III: The Revival of an Old Theory (Prince Osorkon = Osorkon III)". 古代オリエント博物館紀要 [Bulletin of the Ancient Orient Museum] 20 33–49. [article language is English]
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- von Beckerath, Jürgen (1999). Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen. 2nd edition, Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern.